Sheikh-shahab tomb, Ahar, Iran
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Ahar (Persian: اهر) is a city in and the capital of Ahar County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. According to the 2006 census, Ahar was the fifth most populated city of the province with a population of 85,782 in 20,844 families.
In the wake of Russo-Persian War (1804–13) Ahar, with 3500 inhabitants, was the only city of Qaradağ. Around mid 1830s the population was estimated to be from five to six thousand inhabitants in about six hundred houses. By 1956 the population had increased to 19816. At the 2006 census, its population was 85,782, in 20,844 families. Despite this population boom the city has been losing its former importance to the much smaller neighboring Kaleybar city as the later is gaining nationwide fame as a tourist destination.
In early nineteenth century, James Morier, who visited Ahar, proposed the following idea, "There appears to be in the name of Ahar a better ground for conjecture that it is Hara, one of the three cities mentioned in 1 Chronicles, v. 26., to which the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh were carried away by Tilgath Pilneser, King of Assyria, than Tarom or Tarim, which Major Rennel has adopted in his luminous disquisition concerning the disposal of the Jewish tribes. -f The letters which exist in Hara also exist in Ahar; and a transposition of syllables or letters having nearly the same sounds, is common in the East: such as Lezgee for Legzee, Corbal for Colbar; Tilgath Pilneser, is also written Tiglath Pileser." Subsequently, other writers, for instance Edward Farr, found Morier's conjecture plausible.
Ahar is one of the ancient cities of Azerbaijan, its name before Islam was "meimad". In the 12th-13th centuries, Ahar was a minor and short-lived, but prosperous emirate ruled by the Pishteginid dynasty of Georgian origin (1155—1231). Yaqut al-Hamawi, writing in early thirteenth century, describes Ahar as very flourishing despite its small extent. 
The city lost most of its importance during the rule of Ilkhanate. Hamdallah Mustawfi, writing in mid fourteenth century, descries Ahar as a little town. He estimates the tax revenue of the town to be comparable to that of Mardanaqom, which presently is a medium sized village.
Ahar suffered enormously during Russo-Persian War (1804–13) and Russo-Persian War (1826–28). Western travelers in 1837-1843 period had found Ahar, a city with around 700 households, in wretched condition. Their impression was that the Qajar pricess, who where dispatched as the governors of Qaradagh hastened to collect as much wealth as possible before their removal.
Ahar was one of the epicenters of Persian Constitutional Revolution due to the involvement of Arasbaran tribes in armed conflicts; the revolutionary and ati-revolutionary camps were headed, respectively, by Sattar Khan and Rahimkhan Chalabianloo, both from Qaradağ region. When in 1925 Rezā Shāh deposed Ahmad Shah Qajar and founded the Pahlavi dynasty, Ahar's gradual decline started. The new king insisted on ethnic nationalism and cultural unitarism and implemented his policies with forced detribalization and sedentarization. He re-named Qaradağ as Arasbaran to deny the Turkic identity of the inhabitants. This policy, in particular, resulted in suppression of ethnic azeris.
- H. Bayburdi "The history of Arasbaran",
- H. Doosti, "The history and geography of Arasbaran",
- N. Sedqi, "The contemporary political and social history of Arasbaran",
- S.R. Alemohammad, "The book of Arasbaran".
Two concise English language articles are the following:
- "The Tribes of Qarāca Dāġ: A Brief History" by P. Oberling.
- The entry "AHAR", in Encyclopedia Iranica.
Until early 1960s Ahar was the economic hub of Arasbaran region. Arasbaran nomadic tribes bartered their produce in Ahar's bazaar. The charcoal produced in villages adjacent to Arasbaran forests was carried by muleteers to Ahar and from there was transported to Tabriz. In addition, Ahar was a distribution center for the Arasbaran rug. The gradual settlement of nomads, widespread use of fossil fuels, changing life-styles, and establishment of new marketplaces such as Kaleybar through facilitated transportation, have diminished Ahar's economical importance.
The main tourist site in the city is the mausoleum of Sheikh Shaabe-deen, who was the teacher of Safi-ad-din Ardabili, the founder of the family of Safavid dynasty. The monument has been described by James Morier in early nineteenth century as the following, "The mausoleum is of brick, with a foundation of stone, and faced by an elevated portico, flanked by two minors or pillars encrusted with green tiles. A little wooden door was opened for us in the back of the building, which introduced us into the spot that contained the tomb of the Sheikh, which was enclosed by a stone railing, carved into open work, and surrounded by a sculptured arabesque ornament, of very good taste. The tomb is distinguished by a marble cover, on which is an Arabic inscription in relieve.".
All notable people from Arasbaran region would have counted Ahar as their home town. Here we list some prominent figures who have spent parts of their lives in Ahar or the neighboring villages:
- Sattar Khan was originally from Qaradağ. He is considered as a national hero of Iran and is referred to as سردار ملی (meaning National Commander). He headed Constitutionalist rebels from the Amirkhiz district of Tabriz in early twentieth century.
- Amir Arshad, the headman of Haji-Alilu tribe, was a legendary military commander in early twentieth century. He is credited with fending off the communism from Iran.
- Rahimkhan Chalabianloo, the infamous chief of Chalabianloo Tribe, is known for opposing Constitutionalists in early twentieth century.
- Abbas Eslami, known with his pen-name Barez, (1932-2011) was a great poet who described the melancholic demise of Qaradağ in a book titled mourning Sabalan ( ياسلي ساوالان).
- Houssein Rezapour a contemporary poet with the pen-name "Razi",
- Colonel Husein bayburdi was borne in Ahar and retired from Army in 1959. He wrote and published a book on the history of Arasbaran. This book is, perhaps, the only comprehensive original source on Arasbaran.
- Ahar can be found at GEOnet Names Server, at this link, by opening the Advanced Search box, entering "-3051923" in the "Unique Feature Id" form, and clicking on "Search Database".
- "Census of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1385 (2006)" (Excel). Islamic Republic of Iran. Archived from the original on 2011-11-11.
- Bibliothèque orientale Elzévirienne, Volume 52; Volume 55, 1887 p.224.
- Robert Mignan, A Winter Journey Through Russia, the Caucasian Alps, and Georgia: Thence ..., Vol. 1, 1839, London
- James Morier, A second journey through Persia, Armenia, and Asia Minor, to Constantinople ..., 1818, p. 234
- Edward Farr, History of the Assyrians, Chaledeans, Medes, Lydians and Carthaginians, 1850, 135.
- Minorsky, Vladimir (1951), "The Georgian Maliks of Ahar." BSOAS vol. 13/4, pp. 868-77.
- Yaqut ibn 'Abd Allah al-Rumi al-Hamawi, Charles Adrien Casimir Barbier de Meynard, Dictionnaire géographique, historique et littéraire de la Perse et des contrees adjacentes, 1851, Paris, p. 57
- نزهةالقلوب ، حمداله مستوفی ، به کوشش محمد دبیر سیاقی ، انتشارات کتابخانه طهوری ، چاپ اول ، تهران ، ۱۳۳۶، ص. ۹۵.
- Kishwar Rizvi , The Safavid Dynastic Shrine: Architecture, Religion and Power in Early ..., 2011, I.B.Tauris, p. 161
- Richard Tappe, Frontier Nomads of Iran: A Political and Social History of the Shahsevan, 1997, Cambridge University Press, p. 171
- Abrahamian, Ervand (1982). Iran Between Two Revolutions. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. 123–163. ISBN 9780691053424. OCLC 7975938.
- سرهنگ حسین بایبوردی، "تاریخ ارسباران"، ابن سینا، تهران ۱۳۴۱
- حسین دوستی، تاریخ و جغرافیای ارسباران,انتشارات احرار,تبریز,1373
- ناصر صدقی،تاریخ اجتماعى و سیاسى ارسباران (قره داغ) در دوره معاصر، ۱۳۸۸، تبریز، نشر اختر.
- سیدرضا آلمحمد، نامه ارسباران، ۱۳۹۱، تهران، کتابخانه موزه و اسناد مجلس شورای اسلامی.
- Oberling, Pierre. "The Tribes of Qarāca Dāġ: A Brief History." Oriens 17 (1964): 60-95
- Ervand Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, Princeton University Press, 1982 p.97
- اسماعيل اميرخيزى، قيام آذربايجان و ستار خان، ۱۹۶۰، كتابفروشى تهران
- حسین دوستى، "حماسه ها و حماسه سازان انقلاب مشروطيت: با تاءکید بر نقش مردم ارسباران (قره داغ)"، باران، ۲۰۰۶
- نصرت الله فتحى،"ديدار همرزم ستارخان" ،گوتنبرگ ۱۹۷۳
- پناهى سمنانى، "ستار خان: سردار ملى ونهضت مشروطه"، ۱۹۹۷، کتاب نمونه.
- رحيم رئيسنيا، عبد الحسين ناهيد،"دو مبارز جنبش مشروطه: ستار خان، محمد خيابانى", ۱۹۷۰، انتشارات آگاه.
- Stephanie Cronin, 'The Making of Modern Iran: State and Society Under Riza Shah, 1921-1941', 2007, p. 207
Arasbaran forests in the vicinity of Ahar (Kaleibar county)
Ahar town lies on the north-west face of Mount Sabalan